Skip to main content

“Chemical restraint” means using drugs to control student behavior. 

Giving medications to students is not always chemical restraint.  

Some students take medication during the school day. They may need someone to give them their medication.  

Some students need medicine for:  

  • Controlling seizures 
  • Earaches  
  • Having a safe blood sugar level  

That is okay! 

This bill wants to keep kids safe. Medications are part of safety. 

There are three things which make giving students medications a chemical restraint:  

The school gives the medication on an “as-needed basis.” This means they decide when a student takes the medication.   

The medication is given only to: 

  • Limit “freedom of movement” or 
  • Control “externalized behaviors” 

This definition may be confusing. Here are some social stories to help explain how this bill works in the real world. 

This social story is an example of giving a student medication that is not chemical restraint: 

Sara is a young girl with disabilities. One of her disabilities gives her trouble with impulse control.  

Sara’s psychiatrist prescribed her a medication that can help with that. Sara takes the medication twice a day or a small amount if she needs extra help. Sara likes her medication and wants access to it at school.  

Sara’s special education teacher keeps a supply of her medication for when Sara asks for it. Sara asks her teacher for her medication when she wants it. Sara’s teacher does not force Sara to take the medication when he wants her to. 


This next social story is an example of chemical restraint: 

Sally is a young girl with disabilities. She also has trouble with impulse control. Sally was suspended from school for acting out in class.  

Sally’s psychiatrist prescribes her a medication to make her feel too tired to act out. Sally likes the medication because it can help her feel calmer.  

Sally’s special education teacher keeps a supply of her medication. She can give it to Sally when Sally wants to take it.  

One day, Sally was feeling very upset. Sally tried to run away from her special education classroom. Sally’s teacher yelled at her. She said Sally needed to take her medication. Sally said she did not want to take it.  

Sally’s teacher said she would call Sally’s dads to take her home if Sally did not take the medication.  

Sally did not want to go home or get suspended. Sally took the medication because her teacher threatened her to take it. 

The next day, Sally’s teacher demanded Sally take her medication all the time. Sally’s teacher did not want another incident. Sally felt too tired to learn or socialize.  

Sally’s teacher was happy because Sally wasn’t showing how upset she was. Sally was too tired to act out. 

Sally's teacher did something wrong. This is chemical restraint. HB 1479/SB 5559 makes this illegal.   

This next social is an example of keeping kids with complex health needs safe. This is not an example of chemical restraint. 

This is a story about Mary. Mary has complex health needs. One of her disabilities is type 1 diabetes.  

Mary needs medication to live. Mary needs to take some medications at school. Some of her medications are as needed.  

One day, Mary felt very tired and had trouble seeing. Mary’s teacher asked her if she was okay. Mary had trouble answering. She looked like she was about to pass out. Mary was very low blood sugar. That can be very dangerous.  

Mary’s teacher told her to drink some apple juice, but Mary refused.  

About ten minutes later, Mary passed out from low blood sugar. This is very dangerous! 

Mary’s teacher acted quickly and injected her with glucagon. Mary’s teacher did something good.  

This was not chemical restraint even though Mary did not want to raise her blood sugar with apple juice. 

This is how HB 1479/SB 5559 phrased the definition of “chemical restraint”:  

(a)"Chemical restraint" means administering medication to a student, including medications prescribed by the student's physician, on an as-needed basis for the sole purpose of involuntarily limiting the student's freedom of movement or controlling externalized behaviors.